Hannibal’s Canticle

Imagine, a week before Halloween, sitting in an elaborate House of Worship listening to a serial killer sing of his crimes, the wall behind him splattered with blood. Get your Goth on, NYC!

Composer-conductor Sung Jin Hong interacting with his guests from the sold-out world premiere

Composer-conductor Sung Jin Hong interacting with his guests from the sold-out world premiere. Photo by Jaka Vinšek.

One World Symphony has once again created an experience unmatched in its ability to bring to life the surreal. Orchestral sections take turns drumming out heart beats that resonate within your terrified chest. Medical staff are on hand, under the guise of educating willing audience members on hands-only CPR as a pre-show educational perk, but in reality are there to resurrect any audience members whose frail hearts succumb to the macabre undulations of that unholy Canticle of evil.

The evening’s entertainment started with Ballade, composed by Kaija Saariaho and sublimely performed by Markus Kaitila on the piano. It was a beautiful, relatively gentle start to the festivities. This was followed immediately by the Sacrificial Dance from Stravinsky’s famous The Rite of Spring. Looking closely at the roster of musicians listed on the program it’s amazing so much sound can come from so few performers!

Sung Jin Hong expresses his gratitude towards One World Symphony and its concertmaster Michael Mandrin

Sung Jin Hong expresses his gratitude towards One World Symphony and its concertmaster Michael Mandrin. I say a hearty thank you as well! Photo by Jaka Vinšek.

Nearly as soon as it began, the dazzling chaos ended – the services of the medical staff somehow not yet called for – and we were right away into the gentle, intellectually soothing Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, performed here to great effect on the harp by Kristi Shade. As an aside, hearing this on the harp makes me think it ought to always be played on the harp, as it comes across somehow nobler and more elegant this way. Sort of classical, in the classical sense. Before the last humming string of the harp was still, we were listening to excerpts from Fauré’s Requiem, a haunting piece I am admittedly not nearly as familiar with as I ought to be. During this performance we were gifted with sweet sounds from soloists Soprano Laura Farmer and Tenor Michael Polscer (“Agnus Dei”), whose voices provided a grace that elevated the evening thus far into the realm of the spiritual. All together, this first section of the concert provided as lively a contrast of moods and sounds as you’re ever likely to hear in a concert hall within the span of a half hour or so, and perfectly evoked the dichotomy of Hannibal Lecter.

Countertenor Nicholas Tamagna performing the title role.

Countertenor Nicholas Tamagna performing the title role. Photo by Jaka Vinšek.

After applause, the evening moved on to the World Premiere phase, namely Maestro Sung Jin Hong’s Hannibal. Regular attendees of the One World Symphony have become quite spoiled by the regular indulgence of world premieres. Lucky us. The cast was spot on, featuring four wonderfully talented singers: Jane Albert as the spirit of Mischa Lecter, Marie Putko as Abigail, Ransom G. Bruce as Will and Nicholas Tamagna as Hannibal himself. The music, craftily carved by Maestro Hong from Hannibalistic inspirations – including a pervasive use of the interval of the ninth, a most unstable and disharmonious interval – was performed with great gusto by the One World Symphony orchestra and the new One World Concertus.

Debut of its 16-member vocal ensemble, One World Concertus, Chorusmaster Sung Jin Hong, performing as a Greek chorus in “Hannibal

Debut of the 16-member vocal ensemble, One World Concertus, Chorusmaster Sung Jin Hong, performing as a Greek chorus in “Hannibal”. Photo by Jaka Vinšek.

Part I: Reckoning featured a heavy woodwind section, complete with two alto flutes and two bass flutes, in addition to two regular flutes! Low flutes happen to be one of my favorite timbres (along with high bassoon passages, such as the opening of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring – unheard tonight – and also sometimes horns and trombones when they play very majestically, the heckelphone… but I digress…) Point being there is no music which suffers for these beautiful instruments – their unique voices create a haunting, melancholy mood which suits the evening, and the season, perfectly, and their prominence in the beginning of this work was greatly appreciated, at least by this listener.

Part II: Folie à deux brings us from the grey netherworld of the previous section into a black and red hellish nightmare world where even good and evil have lost their distinction and have been exposed for all the world to see as close relations. A polyrhythmic Tell-Tale Heart episode threatens to swing the heart doctors into action, but the One World Symphony crowd is robust and we all survive the terrible, rapidly undulating palpitations, albeit some of us with a new craving for blood!

Part III: Becoming features a gruesome onstage murder while beautifully frightful music is pounded out by the piano and orchestra. What a night! We get at last a chilling look at Hannibal, represented musically by a sinister twist on the ol’ B-A-C-H motif, namely: H-A-B-C.

graphical image of B-A-C-H motive

A graphical representation of the B-A-C-H motif, inspiration for the H-A-B-C motif in Hannibal. Disturbingly enough, to get to H-A-B-C from this image one has to perform a sinister looking upside-down “cross”. Bach’s Cross image created by Michael miceli.

Finally, I was going to make a joke in here somewhere about this, but I see someone beat me to the punch!

Hannibal Lecter did us all a service by eliminating an unskilled flutist from the “Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra” in the opening sequence of the film Red Dragon, although serving the said flutist for dinner to the orchestra’s board of directors may have been going a bit too far. Hopefully we won’t be needing any such personnel changes at One World Symphony. Quid pro quo, Sung Jin. Quid pro quo. – Principal flute and nail artist, Chrissy Fong on Hannibal (2015)

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